ARE YOU READY FOR A BRAND NEW BEAT? Summer’s here and the time is right, for dancing in the street.

I didn’t say that, Marvin Gaye and Mickey Stevenson did, and Martha and the Vandellas sang it to No. 2on the charts in the volatile summer of ’64, when swaths of young urban black America lost patience waiting 350 years for their civil rights and decided to make some noise.

But it wasn’t intended that way. “My Lord, it was a party song,” Martha Reeves later remarked, in reaction to the British press forcefully asking her if she was a militant leader, and the song a call to riot. (The album’s title was “Dance Party,” folks.)

But once art is out there you can’t control what people will do with it, and it did play a role in those historic times. In 2006 the Library of Congress announced that it would be one of 50 recordings preserved to the National Recording Registry.

The Mamas and the Papas recorded it, and it was the last song they sang live, at Monterrey Pop. It was the first song the Grateful Dead stretched out into an improvisational jam piece, something they became known for. Van Halen covered it, and Black Oak Arkansas, Ramsey Lewis, Bruce, and the version David Bowie and Mick Jagger collaborated on for the massive bi-continental Live Aid benefit concert in 1985 topped the British charts for a month, and was voted the top song of street parties in the UK celebrating the 2011 wedding of Kate and Prince William.

(Wait a minute — the British dance, in the street? Years ago when I had legendary drummer Bill Bruford on my cable TV show, he remarked that the Brits were, in his opinion, “rhythmically challenged.”)

Yes, the Rolling Stones borrowed a line for their overtly incendiary “Street Fighting Man” (“…the time is right for fighting in the street, boy”) but the lasting image in most people’s minds and feet is as a dance song, and that’s how I intended the reference.

I moved here for the music. Albuquerque, New Mexico, just wasn’t doing it for me. I saw some incredible shows there — the Stones at their best in ’72 with Stevie Wonder opening, Bette Midler in her outrageous prime, the Dead and the New Riders together, Cream’s farewell tour, Ry Cooder and Randy Newman, Andres Segovia, Bowie, Buck Owens, Led Zeppelin’s first tour, CCR, John Fahey, Labelle’s tricked out space crustaceans tour — but they came way too few and far between.

L.A. in the ’80s and ’90s was music overload, if you knew where to look. I can’t so vigorously defend the assertion today, but for decades I would argue with anyone that Los Angeles was the best music city in the world. No, not you, New York, nor New Orleans or London, Chicago or Berlin, and damnsure not you, Miami. Please.

No other city had the astounding variety of music, at the highest level, every night, somewhere. It might be at UCLA or some club you never heard of in a part of town you didn’t want to go to, but it was non-stop. I went from looking forward for weeks to the next great show in Albuquerque, to wrestling with how many of five or six great bands I could jam into one night’s drive. And we’re talking Tuesdays and even Mondays, not just the weekend.

I’m pretty convinced, despite the constant flux of the live music scene here (every few years it would be declared “dead”), that those heady days are history.

But— sometimes when I see the music start to build to tsunami level at the beginning of a summer, I dream Club Lingerie is still there in Hollyweird, and Cathay de Grande, Raji’s and the Starwood, the ON Club in Silverlake, Madame Wong’s on the Westside and the Blue Lagune Saloon in Marina del Rey, the Russian and Mexican and Armenian nightclubs and the tiny funky jazz clubs in the Valley with stone cold geniuses swinging and wailing, no cover charge, drinks cheap and sometimes even strong.

Nostalgia is fun, but it won’t get sounds in your ears or shoe leather shufflin’. There is so much music coming your way, most of it free and outdoors, but you’ve got to plan, mark your calendars, juggle your vacation time. I’m serious. Start Googling. The L.A. Weekly, useless for a quarter century for much else but their excellent music calendar, is a good place to start, and then dig deeper. The rewards are great.

I realize now that for me it started May 7, when I took in “BigVoice” at Samohi’s Barnum Hall, chronicling the tremendous choir program built there by the brilliant Jeffe Huls. Go see it when it’s released.

Then there was the fine mother-daughter duet two evenings later at the Make the Magic benefit here for Camp Kesem. OK, it was a family affair, but I know good singing, and they did wind up with a business card from a CAA agent in attendance. (Call me.) The next day, at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall, an entire day of Indian music. We caught the nuanced but dazzling percussion ensemble, and a violin player to make you weep.

Four days later, Tongva Park, I saw two outstanding folk ensembles perform, the Petrojvic Blasting Company brass band (music from Southeastern Europe and Romania) and the Nevenka Folk Ensemble, a local women’s choir of 38 years who perform songs from all Eastern Europe cultures. Both tremendous. Had to skip the screening that night at the Aero of the doc “I’ll Be Me,” about Glen Campbell’s slide into dementia. See? It starts. The painful/wonderful choices.

Then there was the journey last Saturday from UCLA for Bulgarian choral music, and a large bluegrass group, back to Santa Monica only to stumble upon a damn fine jam session in a neighbor’s garage. Tell you about that next week.

Oh, and Kevin Costner. I’m sure some of you want to know about the musician Kevin Costner.

(Lastly, do not miss, this Saturday at 7:30 p.m., the free performance at Barnum by the Santa Monica Symphony of two very worthy warhorses: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 and Mahler’s First.)

QUOTES OF THE WEEK: “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy” —Ludwig van Beethoven

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” —Bob Marley

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at

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